451 Research perspectives on OpenStack and Amazon APIs

There’s been an interesting debate on the OpenStack cloud computing project and its API compatibility with Amazon. The discussion and debate over the open source cloud software’s compatibility with cloud leader Amazon’s proprietary APIs was just beginning when the 451 Group released The OpenStack Tipping Point in April. With the advancement of the OpenStack software and community — along with lingering questions about the desired level of compatibility with Amazon’s cloud — the matter is heating up. However, the issue of Amazon cloud compatibility is largely a non-issue.

Enterprise customers are focused on solving their computing and business challenges. They typically center on promptly providing their customers and internal users and divisions with adequate resources and infrastructure; speeding application development and deployment; and avoiding so-called “Shadow IT,” which normally involves use of Amazon’s cloud. Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

I’m not the only one with an opinion around here. My 451 Research colleagues have also weighed in on the matter and 451 Research subscribers can view their argument that Amazon API compatibility may be a fool’s errand.

Open source lives in polyglot programming

The prominence and pervasiveness of open source software in cloud computing is something I’ve researched and written about quite a bit. I’ve also discussed how open source software is a key component and catalyst for the devops trend that blends application development and deployment via IT operations. Now I’m seeing the same effect from open source software yet again in a disruptive trend: polyglot programming.

An upcoming report on polyglot programming by 451 Research will more deeply explore these drivers and impacts, including the role of open source software.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Mixed signals in IT’s great war over IP

Recent news that Microsoft and Barnes & Noble agreed to partner on the Nook e-reader line rather than keep fighting over intellectual property suggests the prospect of more settlement and fewer IP suits in the industry. However, the deal further obscures the blurry IP and patent landscape currently impacting both enterprise IT and consumer technology.

It is good to see settlement — something I’ve been calling for, while also warning against patent and IP aggression. However, this settlment comes from the one conflict in this ongoing war that was actually shedding some light on the matter, rather than further complicating it.

See the full article at TechNewsWorld.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2012.04.20

Topics for this podcast:

*OpenStack, Amazon, Eucalyptus and Citrix engage in open cloud warfare
*Microsoft spins off new company for openness
*Updates on automation players Puppet Labs and Opscode with Chef
*Percona turns attention to MySQL high availability
*Open APIs as the fifth pillar of modern IT openness

iTunes or direct download (28:42, 4.9MB)

Open APIs: The Fifth Pillar of Modern IT Openness

Last year, I wrote about the key pillars of openness in today’s enterprise IT industry, highlighting open source software, real open standards, open clouds, and open data as the ‘Four Pillars of Modern IT Openness.’

More recently, I wrote about what I now consider to be the fifth pillar, which is open application programming interfaces (APIs). Of course, when we talk about ‘open’ anything — open source, open standards, open clouds, open APIs — there tends to be debate about what is really open, how we should define open and who should or should not be able to carry the phrase. My focus on open APIs and on APIs in general generated some good discussion, as well as some pushback, regarding the value of APIs compared to open source software, which APIs are open, and how open is open enough?

I want to make clear I am not saying open APIs are better than open source. The real point is that the activity, development and innovation happening around APIs — particularly as cloud computing and hybrid public-private use continues to evolve — is reminiscent of the way open source software began disrupting the industry some two decades ago.

The other point is that while customers are typically interested in open source software for flexibility, cost savings, mitigating vendor lock-in, performance, ROI or other reasons, my conversations with both vendors and customers indicate much of the integration in the cloud centers on the openness of the APIs. When customers have stable, documented APIs, it is often more conducive and effective to work there, rather than on the source code. If code, development and deployment are disrupted by closed, changing, weak or undocumented APIs, then developers, customers and the market are likely to quickly move on to other APIs, perhaps ‘open APIs’ that are well documented and include examples. Similar to the other pillars of modern IT openness — open source software, open standards, open clouds and open data, open APIs are most effective and efficient when combined with the others.

Let’s not let open APIs become another version of ‘open standards’ that were anything but 10 years ago. Instead, we should seek to use and call out truly open APIs, which would typically mean connection to open source software, open standards, open clouds and open data as well. However, we must also be aware of the threat, competition and pressure from APIs such as Amazon’s EC2 and AWS interfaces, which are not open source nor open standards, but nonetheless may be open enough for a majority of developers and market.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2012.02.17

Topics for this podcast:

*NewSQL, new company in Akiban
*Discussion of APIs as the ‘new’ open source
*NoSQL leader 10gen grows, gets more agile
*Our coming report on Cloud Performance Management
*Zimory acquires sones NoSQL development team

iTunes or direct download (28:01, 4.8MB)

Open APIs are the new open source

We’ve seen the rise of open source software in the enterprise and also beyond the IT industry, but the real keys to openness and its advantages in today’s technology world — where efficient use of cloud computing and supporting services are paramount — exist in open application programming interfaces, or APIs.

Open source software continues to be a critical part of software development, systems administration, IT operations and more, but much of the action in leveraging modern cloud computing and services-based infrastructures centers on APIs. Open APIs are the new open source.

Read the full story at LinuxInsider.

Licensing matters again in open source or not, virtualization and the cloud

Just when you thought open source and its licensing were getting a bit dull (okay, that will probably never happen) … Sure, the GPL is giving up some of its dominance. OEM, embedded, mobile and other expansion areas for open source are keeping open source licenses relevant, as are virtualization and cloud computing, and these are all areas where open source licenses such as the AGPLv3 hold both promise and burden, depending on who you ask. It’s clear open source licensing is heating up again as a topic and as we assess what is really open and what is really not.

Matt recently asked about Google’s recently announced WebM, whether it is open source and what this tells us about the open source license definition and approval process. WebM, a Web video format that is available for free, is intended as open and even open source, but it is not actually licensed under an OSI-approved open source license, thus making it fall short of the definition of open source.

We may see Google get that OSI approval. It’s certainly not out of the ordinary, and even Microsoft has successfully lobbied and certified some of its own licenses as open source. However, for the time being, WebM falls under the category of ‘not open source,’ and I believe reflects Google’s challenge of getting open enough. On the other hand, Google’s Android OS, which is also backed by a broad consortium of other software, hardware, wireless carrier and other players, is sometimes criticized or questioned on its openness, particularly amid its recent progress. The fact of the matter is the kernel and core of the OS is based on Linux and the OS itself is licensed under the Apache 2.0, one of the top open source licenses we discuss in our report, The Myth of Open Source License Proliferation and one we see gaining use and prominence.

‘Open enough’ is another topic we’ve discussed on the CAOS Theory blog before, but I believe we are seeing cases of non open source software, such as Amazon’s APIs for EC2 and its cloud computing services, being open and available enough in many regards. Yet the fact these are not open standards and not open source brings persisting concerns about what the future might hold. This also highlights how lock-in, which we saw fade to some extent as a factor driving open source, is becoming more significant again. Although there has been an evolving acceptance of some lock-in, particularly as the debate has moved to open data, many early and established cloud computing users are worried if they have a single source for their infrastructure and services (vendor and product shutdowns, consolidation and rigid roadmaps are among the legitimate customer fears). In response, many are looking to ‘alternative’ software pieces and stacks for their private and hybrid cloud computing endeavors, and this is frequently, if not mostly open source.

Back to the licensing matter, we’re also seeing some friction on software licensing from virtualization and cloud computing, where the wants and needs of suppliers and consumers do not necessarily align. In terms of open source, this dilemma shows how flexibility and leverage — either with the vendor or with the software itself given the ability to access source code and build on it or influence its development — can help set open source apart as users contemplate their licensing and deployment strategy. Still, there are also challenges that come with open source software licensing, such as requiring the sharing of code and modifications and limited use of the open source code in combination with other software and in other products.

All of this highlights the ongoing need and importance of the OSI and broader industry definition of open source and its licenses, particularly as open source continues to blur and blend with non-open source in mobile and other electronic devices, virtualization, cloud computing and elsewhere.

Open source was good enough, will non-open source be open enough?

There was a time years ago when open source software in the enterprise often had to be just ‘good enough.’ Over time, use and broader adoption, open source software has now reached the point that it must often be ‘as good or better’ than proprietary alternatives, now typically getting equal consideration from customers and users.

At the same time, we are seeing examples of non-open source players and technologies being used and adopted by customers and communities that, while aware and appreciative of open source software, are often content with non-open source as long as it is ‘open enough.’

Amazon’s cloud APIs are a perfect example of cloud computing technology that is acceptable and open to an extent, but certainly isn’t open source. Do they represent open standards? That’s somewhat unclear, but what does seem clear is that even though they aren’t open source, they may be open enough.

What will this mean for open source and the industry going forward? Matt has covered how cloud computing can be both complimentary and competitive for open source software. I believe this question of ‘open enough’ represents a significant challenge to open source software from non-open source vendors and forces that are learning to adapt to a more open world.

Open Screen shows Adobe opening up

Fresh off joining the Linux Foundation and extending its support for Flash Player and AIR runtime software to Linux, Adobe is heading up a new collaborative project to ease development and design of rich applications on a variety of devices from PCs and TVs to mobile devices and other consumer electronics. The Open Screen Project is being supported by Adobe and a cavalcade of other big vendors in hardware, networking and devices (ARM, Intel, Cisco, Motorola, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Verizon Wireless among them) as well as video giants including MTV Networks and NBC Universal.

That’s pretty broad, significant support, and even though it’s not actually an open source project, Open Screen is intended as a collaborative effort to offset fragmentation with a common runtime technology that crosses OS, device, vendor and screen. For its part, Adobe will open up access to its Flash by removing restrictions on the video software’s specifications, publishing protocols and device porting layer APIs and lifting license fees so the next major releases of Flash Player and AIR runtime environment will be free.

The Adobe work to support Linux, open source and more broadly and consistently address different devices and deployments of its Flash, Flex framework, AIR and other rich application software highlights the progress and potential for open source in mainstream devices. Even if Adobe’s Flash may be something iPhone seller Apple doesn’t want, the software, its vendor and the rest of the world seem to be opening up for the better.